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If you rode motorcycles in the '70s and recall Bell helmets with something like fondness - in particular the Bell Star - you'll be uplifted by the news that Bell has finally re-emerged from its lengthy hibernation.
With the new Bell, we're talking quality product, smart and useful innovations, amazing comfort, all wrapped in a whole new calling to rock your world.
The company was legendary in its time, enjoying a dominance that lasted from the '50s to the '80s. Then through neglect, a series of corporate missteps and the rise of Japanese newcomers like Arai and Shoei, the brand's quality, marketing and moto-cred all slumped to junk status, remaining marooned there for decades.
When I purchased my 2009 F800GS, not wishing to shovel $1500 into BMW's dualsport helmet, and needing a highway-worthy lid, I rushed in and bought a full-face Bell. Charmed by its $220 price tag and psychoactive graphics, I was crushed to see it literally fall to pieces over a summer of daily use.
And it was the way it fell apart that really irked: Every aspect of it, but for the safety-related components, was crappily engineered, badly glued and assembled from substandard materials. It was obvious that Bell had made the helmet to barely scrape through its DOT/SNELL certifications and then phoned in the rest.
Fair enough, I thought at the time, I guess that's what $220 gets you.
Bell's new management has revamped the brand from the ground up, since buying the name back from its indifferent previous owners, and says it is fully committed to re-establishing Bell's reputation for quality and cool.
Take the Bell RS-1. It has a very lightweight Kevlar/fiberglass composite shell, employs the Velocity Flow Ventilation system for cool comfort, with a super-stable aerodynamic profile to keep the helmet steady at speed. The ClickRelease shield system enables fast, easy shield swaps, and there are plenty of tint and coating options.
Other innovations include Bell's new Photochromatic shield that automatically changes between clear and dark-smoke in response to lighting conditions. From indoors to bright outdoor sunlight, the transformation takes about 45 seconds. This is ideal for people like me who need glasses, but can't wear contacts, and also don't love switching from prescription sunnies to regulars on a ride.
On all the new Bell helmets, contour-cut cheekpads and a plush, removable, washable liner cradle the head in comfort. And Bell's exclusive Magnefusion magnetic strap keeper puts rest to the annoyance of flapping strap ends.
And the Bell Star is back, with a retail price in the neighbourhood of $549. The Jona Cerwinske Carbon Fibre model is a standout.
There's plenty of ultra-retro styling and classic racer graphics at work in Bell's open face models.
Research on rider sites and shops reveals unanimous thumbs-up for Bell's new line-up. The BMW owners' forum 1000rr.net has been raving over the innovations and creative design approach Bell has incorporated. Read some of that here: http://esr.cc/wUSONd .
So, welcome back, Bell. And don't you ever pull a disappearing act like that again.